Articles from 1998 In August

Corn+Soybean Digest

The SCN Land Rush

Like the pioneers of the Oklahoma land rush, soybean cyst nematodes are moving west and staking claim to new land.

Paulette Pierson, regional education coordinator for the SCN Coalition, believes it's actually an old claim just up for renewal.

First identified in North Carolina in 1954, SCN spread west and north, eventually reaching the heart of the nation's Soybean Belt. Recent diagnoses in parts of the Midwest are thought by many to be a continuation of the pest's migration.

But Pierson figures most of the movement took place years ago.

"The spread or introduction of SCN occurred some time in the past," she states. "I believe it's just now being identified."

Very high SCN populations are being found in areas where the pest previously had never been identified. The high numbers indicate SCN has been there for years, she says.

For example, counts of over a quarter million eggs in 200 cc of soil were found last year in a previously "SCN-free" county in Ohio.

"Those are extremely high counts if you consider 250 eggs in the same volume of soil can cause damage to SCN-susceptible soybeans," says Pierson.

She says SCN is probably present in more counties than the map below indicates.

In fact, it likely infests most soybean-growing counties.

"Growers really haven't been sampling. Where it hasn't been identified, it probably hasn't been looked for." The fact that SCN probably infests most fields emphasizes the need for growers to identify the problem and adopt a control program. That program should include periodic soil testing to monitor nematode populations.

"SCN can be managed," she says. "But you can't say I'm going to put a Band-Aid on it and just plant resistant varieties. You need to know if SCN numbers are increasing or decreasing with your management strategy."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Outmaneuver SCN

To win the fight against soybean cyst nematodes, rotate crops, plant resistant varieties, and don't be sloppy about weed control, since some weeds are hosts.

But don't expect miracles, says Pat Donald, a University of Missouri extension nematologist.

"It's a long-term proposition. The way you manage nematodes is you starve them out gradually," Donald says.

Just remember that once they infest a field, cyst nematodes can't be totally eliminated.

The year after you discover SCN, plant a non-host crop such as corn, suggests Walker Kirby, a University of Illinois plant pathologist. "The following year, plant a soybean cyst-resistant variety. The third year, plant corn and retest."

If SCN numbers are below threshold, consider planting a susceptible soybean the fourth year. Then go with a corn-to-resistant soybean rotation the two following years, says Kirby.

"The idea behind using a susceptible is that we know there are different races or distinct genetic populations in Illinois and other states. We also know that if you go three to four years with the same resistant soybean in the field, you can shift the race from one that cannot feed on that bean to one that can."

Following resistant beans with resistant beans - rather than a non-host crop - can cause an even quicker race shift, notes Kirby.

Knowing what SCN race you have isn't important in picking a resistant variety because you may have several races within a field, Donald says.

Certain labs will test for race designation, but it takes a month to get results.

"We discourage it," states John Ferris, a Purdue University nematologist. "It's laborious and costly. Once the grower does know the race, the question is, 'so what?'

"We have four races here in Indiana, only one of which has seed labeled for resistance to it. Even if you have a race and plant a variety that says it is resistant to it, there's no guarantee that it will be resistant in that field."

Donald agrees.

"We know there is a lot of genetic diversity in the cyst nematode population. It isn't entirely a moot point whether you have a race 3 or race 5 variety. But, in general, it's better to have some resistance than no resistance."

So how does a grower pick a nematode-resistant variety?

Donald advises Missouri growers to look at variety trial results, especially if some of those sites are infested with SCN.

"Try to match geographically," she says. "Also keep in mind what the egg level is at that site compared to what's in your fields."

Other ways to combat SCN: keep plants as healthy and fields as clean as possible, Donald says. That means using good overall management and cleaning equipment between fields.

An option that's really not an option to hold back SCN is using nematicides, says Kirby.

"Number one, a lot of pesticides are water-soluble. If you get a heavy rain after application, it actually washes below the root zone," he says.

"Number two, some of these nematicides cause a rebound effect. They cannot kill 100% of the population. The individuals it leaves behind are now able to feed on a root system that is in top condition. More nematodes will reproduce and more will survive."

Corn+Soybean Digest

ASA Chief Focuses On Bottom Line

He somewhat facetiously describes himself as having "milk on my lips and straw in my hair."

But Mike Yost, newly elected president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), is no hick farmer.

His initial career move, straight out of college, wasn't back to the farm. Although he's the fourth-generation Yost to farm land near Murdock, MN, he first traded grain at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

He brings grain trading contacts, 20 years of experience growing corn and soybeans, a quick intelligence and a sharp wit to his presidency.

The six-plus years he enjoyed city life, watching Twins and Gophers games and skiing, for example, were well spent. It was there that he made a date with Sandra, a former Iowa farm girl.

In 1979, less than a year after they married, the Yosts packed up and headed toward the family farm to grow corn and soybeans.

Why did he move from trading grain to growing it?

"I think it was more like, why did I trade grain?" he reminisces. "I always intended to come back to the farm. I just decided I would try something else for a few years because I knew once I started farming, I would be farming forever."

So far, forever is nearly 20 years of working closely with his dad, Bill, managing a 2,500-acre corn-soybean corporation. His teenage sons, Michael and David, are now part of the corporation as well.

It was all inadvertent preparation for one of his major goals for ASA.

"We're trying to interact as partners with other facets of this industry," Yost explains.

"We've worked closely with the United Soybean Board and our state associations and have developed good working relationships with them.

"We're also working with the industry: the soybean crushers and the input people supplying seed and pesticides."

Working closely but not exclusively is Yost's philosophy. He's big on delegating duties,whether it's attending a meeting in Minneapolis or going on an exciting foreign tour.

"We've got a nine-person executive committee, including myself. All are capable of representing us on a great many issues," Yost says.

That'll give the new president time to concentrate on what's important: informing members.

"We need to involve our membership more in public policy and international market promotion. We've got to organize our lobbying efforts a little better and push our objectives and goals even harder than in the past."

His biggest challenge, Yost predicts, will be dealing with the Asian economic crisis and its adverse impact on soybean demand.

"We'll work hard to develop a policy to help alleviate that. A trade association involved with trade policy is one of the main goals of ASA, because we export every other row of soybeans.

"There are no other major commodities that depend on exports as much."

Yost admits that being an ASA official means sacrifices by himself and his family. And he's not in it for the glory, just the money.

"It's basically because we raise so many soybeans on our farm. I know that the work we do in promoting soybeans around the globe can affect our bottom line. That's why I'm in it for the money - that's the money I'm talking about."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Soil Testing Diffuses Soybean Time Bomb

SCN is like a time bomb in the soil waiting to explode.

That's how Ann MacGuidwin describes this yield-robbing, microscopic pest.

MacGuidwin, a University of Wisconsin nematologist, says it's important that every grower diffuse the bomb by having soil tested for SCN and then using recommended practices to control the pests.MacGuidwin recommends that gr owers test regularly for SCN.

Negative test results can ease growers' minds, but are not a guarantee there won't be future problems.

She advises sampling in the fall before every other soybean crop, although samples can be accurately analyzed at any time during the year.

Guidelines for collecting soil samples:

1) Limit the number of acres represented in a single sample. Usually 10-20 acres is ideal. If the field is bigger than that, break it into 10- to 20-acre units.

2) Collect 10-20 soil cores from each field or unit using a probe, hand trowel or shovel. The intensity of sampling depends on the information at hand. If there are problem spots that show up year after year, then sampling efforts can be limited to that area. When there are no obvious symptoms, use the 10-20 cores approach.

In any case, its never a good idea to take fewer than five soil cores because the sample will not be very representative of the field. The more spots you sample, the better.

* Take samples from a depth of 6-8" in the plant root zone.

* Combine the soil in a bucket and mix well. A composite sample mixed well will represent the area better.

* Place 1 pint of soil in a plastic bag or paper soil-test bag.

* Keep samples out of the sun and ship them ASAP to a university or private soil lab. Cost ranges from $5 to $24, but some state checkoff boards cover processing costs.

3) Include the following when submitting your samples:

* Name, address and telephone number of farmer or sample collector.

* County and nearest town where samples were collected.

* Estimated acreage of areas sampled.

* Cropping history of areas sampled.

* Current crops of areas sampled.

Each test will give an estimate of SCN population density based on the volume of soil. The standard volume used is 100 cubic centimeters (cc) of soil.

Most labs report the number of SCN eggs, but some give the number of cysts. Cyst and egg counts are not directly comparable. A low cyst count does not equal a low egg count, since each cyst can contain hundreds of eggs.

Corn+Soybean Digest

SCN Symptoms: What You Can't See Hurts

Dave Broghamer had never been satisfied with yields from one of his farms. It's 60 acres of "pretty good ground" he rotates between corn and soybeans.

But last year the Decorah, IA, grower had enough.

"It was easy to see I had a problem; plants were not developing properly," Broghamer says. "They were smaller than normal."

Although parts of fields produced healthy plants, plants a few rows away were struggling.

So he called in his local co-op agronomist, who suggested soil tests.

Soybean cyst nematodes strike again.

Broghamer is just one of many farmers who early on failed to recognize the above-ground symptoms of SCN. That's because there aren't any - until the nematodes are fully entrenched in a field and affecting yield.

"Unfortunately, the message got out fairly early that growers could see above-ground symptoms of soybean cyst nematodes," says University of Missouri extension nematologist Pat Donald.

"And that, if they had chlorotic leaves or dying plants, then they had SCN, and that's not necessarily true."

What is true is that the main early SCN symptom is a "half-empty weigh wagon vs. an overflowing one," says John Ferris, a Purdue University nematologist.

Walker Kirby, a University of Illinois plant pathologist, says the soils in his area are rich enough to support vigorous plant growth, even in the presence of nematodes.

"But the plants tend to set fewer flowers and have fewer pods, so they generally don't yield as well. To growers driving by the field, they look absolutely perfect."

And there's the rub, Donald says.

"Our biggest problem is getting people to get out of the pickups and sample fields," she states. "I recommend, if you have a field going into soybeans, that you sample. Period.

"We have people who say they've been growing soybeans forever and don't have a problem because they don't see any symptoms. When I finally get them to do egg counts, the egg counts come back at a level of 40,000 eggs per cup of soil."

That's enough to cause damage, even on resistant varieties, says Donald.

"The big symptom you don't visually notice is the cyst nematode feeding on the roots," says Kelly Holthaus, Broghamer's agronomist and branch manager of the Winneshiek Co-op, Burr Oak.

"The cysts basically eat off the root system and starve the plant," Holthaus explains. "After they start eating, the roots can't take up the nutrients. Then the visual effects start showing up."

By then it's too late to do something that year for that crop, Donald says.

Growers who've noticed uneven patches in their fields should dig up roots and check their condition. Broghamer's roots "didn't finger out like they should have."

Other than little white cysts clinging to roots, you might find adult females actually feeding on them.

Most experts recommend sampling right ahead of or during harvest. But the best time to dig up and view roots is late June or early July, depending on the soil temperature and when the crop was planted, Donald says.

Symptoms growers do see - when SCN populations are quite high and yields may be reduced by 10 bu/acre or more - include stunted, yellowing plants.

Yellowing is more visible in drought years and in sandy soils, Ferris says.

Plants are also smaller and less vigorous. Dead or uneven patches appear in fields.

"One of the things that I do, when the timing is right, is go out and look at the field with a producer and say, 'Look, this field is very uneven; there are a lot of different heights in the field,' " says Donald.

SCN also prevents good canopy closure, which increases weed pressure, she warns.

"There should be a light bulb going off when they see weeds where they haven't seen weeds before."

And that leads to something else Donald would love to see growers do: track their field histories.

"You need to get a field history so that you know that the management techniques you're using are actually working. If you're doing something that's making the problem worse, and if you don't test repeatedly, then you don't know whether you're helping.

"You may delude yourself into thinking that you're really taking care of something when you are not."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Growers Like Liberty Link Corn

Corn growers who've tried Liberty Link corn like what they see - in the field and the bin.

Weed control with Liberty, alone or in combination with other herbicides, has been good to excellent, they report. And the trait, owned by AgrEvo, is available from most seed companies in some of their best-yielding hybrids. Some companies have stacked the Liberty Link gene with Bt, giving their hybrids protection from European corn borers as well.

There have been some disappointments, but failures have been few and far between. Most can be traced back to rate cutting to save money.

Liberty comes with its own drift retardant, so growers don't have to pay extra to reduce the risk of drift damage to nearby crops and non-crop plants (like the neighbor's rose bushes).

But there's a potential downside, too. AgrEvo has no seed technology fee, but some seed companies do, which can add cost.

Also, if you use full label rates or need a second application, costs can mount. When you compare two applications, for example, of Liberty with herbicide programs centered around lower-cost herbicides like atrazine, Banvel and 2,4-D.

Todd Gingrich, Ottumwa, IA, figures the Liberty program he used this year was quite economical, however. He planted 800 acres of Liberty Link corn and also custom-applied Liberty on 600 acres for neighbors.

"We applied a quarter pound of atrazine preplant on 1,100 acres. The rest received no preplant or pre-emergence herbicide," he reports.

He got the best weed control where atrazine was followed by a half rate of Bicep when the corn was from spike to 2" tall, followed by 16 oz/acre of Liberty mixed with 2.5 lbs of ammonium sulfate.

"That was the ideal combination this year," Gingrich declares. "No weeds escaped at all."

The cost of that program, including three sprayer trips, totaled $23/acre. "A full rate of Bicep or Harness would put you in that range, and you'd still need an additional chemical to give you complete control of both grass and broadleaf weeds," he believes.

Steve Swackhammer, West Des Moines, IA, agrees. He no-tilled 725 acres of Liberty Link corn this year.

"We've tried a lot of herbicides," Swackhammer comments. "We'd been mixing up this and that in order to make a burndown, and then mixing other herbicides together in order to have an effective postemergence program. It was getting expensive.

"We've trimmed some of those costs by going to an atrazine- 2,4-D burndown. And one post-emergence application of Liberty gives us the weed control we were looking for without all the measuring and mixing of other herbicides."

When weeds were small, he used 20 oz/acre of Liberty. Where wet weather kept him out of fields and weeds got taller, he applied 28 oz/acre.

"The burndown costs about $9 an acre, and 20 oz of Liberty runs right at $17, so most of my weed control was under $30 an acre," Swackhammer reports. "The higher rate of Liberty cost right at $23 an acre, so costs there were still under $35.

"I figure anytime I get by in no-till corn for less than $40, I'm staying within my budget." His previous postemergence herbicide program for no-till corn left him with a lot of escapes last year.

Swackhammer says Liberty is reliable and has a wider application window than most post-emergence herbicides or herbicide combinations he's used.

"It gets weeds of all different sizes. To get taller weeds, all you have to do is hike the rate."

Corn+Soybean Digest

New Soybean Disease Concerns Pathologists

DNA technology, the same high-tech science used in criminal cases, has identified a possible new and potentially serious worry for soybean growers.

The technology has allowed the detection of two previously unreported parasites of soybeans.

They are new strains of the clover proliferation phytoplasma and/or the aster yellow phytoplasma, often found together, explains Craig Grau, University of Wisconsin plant pathologist.

The new strains were discovered and identified by a USDA scientist, Ing-Ming Lee, in collaboration with University of Wisconsin scientists. Lee also confirmed an old phytoplasma strain submitted by a University of Arkansas scientist in 1996.

There's somewhat of a dilemma for the scientists at this early point. They know that phytoplasmas are usually associated with plants that express abnormal growth characteristics like they are now seeing.

However, Grau cautions that they haven't been proven to be pathogenic to soybeans - that is, causing disease and yield loss. They look suspicious, though.

"I feel it is one of the more promising leads we have to explain these soybean plant abnormalities," Grau explains.

How serious is this threat?

"If phytoplasmas do prove to be causing disease, I doubt they will be a problem that is going to wipe out the soybean crop in this country, or anything close to it," declares Grau. "But the situation has a lot of people worried."

These new strains obviously have been seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere in recent years. But no one knew what they were seeing, acknowledges Grau, whose team is working hard on the new challenge.

Previously, Grau suspects, the symptoms on soybeans caused by the clover proliferation phytoplasma or the aster yellow phytoplasma were likely blamed on herbicide damage or possibly quirky weather.

So where do they come from, and how do they get to soybeans?

"We don't know for sure how they're transmitted," Grau says. "However, all phytoplasmas usually have some type of insect as a vector that moves them from a source to the crop in question - and it's usually a leafhopper.

"We have found both of these phytoplasmas in alfalfa and clovers, which is where the name of one of them comes from," the scientist adds. "So most likely plants in ditches, waterways and a field next to soybeans could certainly all be sources of the phytoplasmas."

Like many diseases, this one doesn't settle on a whole field like fog. It starts with individually infected plants, usually along a field edge, then becomes a scattering of plants and finally pockets of infection of various sizes - much as something like soybean cyst nematodes begin in a field. Check first along field edges, Grau advises.

"In these pockets of activity, I think we're talking 20 bu per acre yield losses, in some cases even 50% or more," Grau estimates. "On a whole-field basis, if the disease spreads, it could translate into substantial yield losses."

What are the symptoms to look for?

Some affected plants samples were coming into the university's disease clinic in late June. The plants were bushy with short nodes and had more stems than normal.

Plants in midseason have a darker-than-normal color. That's caused by the purple anthocyanins, or pigments, starting to come through and mixing with the normal green pigments. It produces kind of a blue-looking plant, Grau says. A yellow pigment may be present, too, which may be because the aster yellow organism is also present. So there sometimes may also be a yellowing of plants involved.

"That blue-looking plant is one of the most common symptoms," Grau explains. "This, many times, is the whole plant.

"But sometimes the purpling may be on only one side of the stem. Many times we will also see more stems than normal; sometimes stunting; many, many buds at nodes; and frequently there are no pods, or fewer pods. Or, if there are pods, they are misshapen and don't have seed, or they can be relatively normal."

In his experience in the fall, however, one of the most apparent symptoms is that stems stay green when leaves are yellow or brown. The only thing that will eliminate that green color is killing frost.

As with many plant diseases or pests, it appears weather can be a big factor in its severity. In this case, add leafhopper populations.

"In our lab tests, symptoms appear to be more severe if temperatures are in the 60s than in the 70s or 80s," Grau notes. "So under hot weather conditions, I suspect the disease will go into remission.

"I suspect that disease incidence will be very reliant on the type of year we have weatherwise or the leafhopper activity. Last year we had one of the most severe leafhopper years we ever witnessed. Their activity lasted long into the growing season."

If you see symptoms that appear to match those described in this article, what should be your next step?

"I would have them get their seed company agronomist out there, because there can be many causes of some of these symptoms I've described," Grau advises. "The agronomist will likely send samples to the university's plant disease clinic. As our experience grows, there will be more and more of these disease clinics aware of this potential problem."

There's one other bit of good news concerning this new disease challenge. It appears there may be differences among varieties in how severely they are affected.

In short, resistant or tolerant varieties may become effective weapons to combat this new profit robber.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Roundup Ready Soybean System Simply Works

"You plant. You spray. You don't worry." That's how Bud Motsinger, crop management specialist at Consumers Oil Co., Braymer, MO, sums up soybean production using Roundup Ready beans and Roundup Ultra herbicide. It's almost too simple to be true, says Motsinger.

Roundup Ready soybean acreage has grown from a million in 1996, to roughly 8 million in 1997, to an amazing 25 million-plus this year. That's more than one-third of all soybean acres planted. In some areas, 80% of the soybeans are Roundup Ready varieties. Predictions are for even more growth in 1999.

The reason for the Roundup Ready system's popularity is simple.

"It's as close to 100% control as you can get," says Jim Spahr, Seward, NE. "We make a single application with 32 oz of Roundup Ultra 30 to 35 days after planting. You have to be able to deal with fields that are weedy to look at. But you end up with clean fields. Clean of weeds and clean of chemical residue."

Need more benefits? Spahr adds, "With Roundup Ready soybeans you don't lose yield due to herbicide burn, and soil type doesn't make any difference."

"Roundup was already a household name and with the simplicity of the system, farmers have quickly adopted the technology," says Trent Leopold, soybean product manager for Asgrow Seed Co. "For a lot of guys, it's an unbelievable system."

The only rap against Roundup Ready beans has been that some varieties didn't yield as well as their conventional counterparts. Industry experts agree some were brought to the market too soon. Also, they say, some growers planted Roundup Ready varieties not suited to their conditions.

Farmers were more disciplined about seed selection in 1998.

"Last year, the guys just wanted the beans; they didn't care about variety," says Jon Kruse, senior crop management advisor for Blue Valley Co-op, Tamora, NE. "This year they were a lot pickier. They asked a lot more questions about yield potential."

The bigger question farmers face: "Is one application of Roundup enough?" In many cases the answer is yes.

"In general, Roundup by itself is looking pretty darn good," says Alan York, North Carolina State University weed specialist. "If your timing is good, you shouldn't need to use any other herbicides.

"A single application of 1 qt of Roundup works particularly well in drilled beans where you get a quick canopy," York states. "That's worth a bunch when you don't have a residual herbicide."

However, an inexpensive soil-applied herbicide can be awfully cheap insurance, points out Clemson University extension agronomist Jim Palmer.

"Weather and other crops that put soybeans in the backseat put a real strain on weed control," says Palmer. "If you have early weed pressure in the first four weeks after planting, you may have already lost yield."

Many university weed control trials, however, indicate that, assuming a clean-ground start, there is no yield loss due to newly emerged weed pressure in the first four weeks.

"Our biggest control concern is morningglory," Palmer adds. "We have some morningglories that are pretty doggone tolerant to Roundup."

The concern over morningglory control is shared by growers wherever that weed is a problem. Nightshade and dayflower also appear to have a natural tolerance for Roundup.

There is some logic to not relying strictly on a single application of Roundup for weed control, believes Bob Hartzler, Iowa State University weed specialist.

"I think it takes more than one tactic to get maximum yield and maximum weed control," he says. "That might mean a PPI or pre-emerge herbicide, two applications of Roundup or a cultivation. For growers with large acreages, there's less risk if they use a PPI or pre-emerge herbicide."

What about the possibility of weeds developing resistance to continued Roundup use?

It's certainly possible, agree scientists, but some think it's bound to happen eventually. Nevertheless, after more than 20 years of use worldwide, there is no known case of it occurring.

Hartzler, however, feels it's inevitable that weeds will develop resistance to Roundup.

"They've adapted to every other herbicide," he points out. "And on this many acres, it will happen faster. Morningglory, nutsedge and velvetleaf are likely candidates to develop tolerance first. I think we'll also start to see more late-emergers like waterhemp and fall panicum."

Kent and Jeff Templeton, Polo, MO, believe the simplicity of Roundup Ready soybeans out-weighs any concerns.

"This is so simple. We used to go to chemical company meetings and at each one we'd hear about a witch's brew of products to use for weed control," says Kent. "With Roundup, you've got a bigger window to be timely. With other herbicides, if you're late, you're in trouble."

The Templetons no-tilled 90 acres of Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996, took a plunge in 1997 with 2,000 acres and no-till-drilled even more in 1998.

"We stepped out on a limb," says Jeff.

They aren't married to Roundup, though.

"We put down quite a bit of Steel for burndown. You get some residual control with it," says Kent. "We come back with a quart of Roundup, depending on weed size rather than the calendar."

Like many growers, the Templetons were surprised when other chemical companies dropped prices this year, as much as 70%, to compete with the Roundup Ready system.

"I'm glad to see they're going to be competitive. It's never good for us when somebody has the whole basket of eggs."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Declare War On SCN

Soybean cyst nematodes slap soybean growers collectively with more than a $1 billion loss each year.

Regrettably, most farmers shrug off those national-loss figures with the feeling, "That's the other guy's problem."

Listen up! Let's put it in terms then of one farmer - a top grower and one-time president of his state's soybean grower association. Ron Heck, an Iowa State University graduate from Perry, IA, found that SCN had sneaked up on him like a fox looking for dinner. He sought help from his alma mater, then told growers at the Midwest Soybean Conference last August:

"Each year I failed to do something about SCN, I lost about $20,000."

In 1997 research on his farm, Heck found out exactly how important it was to take some corrective action. Early that spring, after studying 1996 research results, he fired an important management shot by switching varieties and leaving check strips with his old, non-resistant varieties. Let him tell it in his own words.

"I picked up 13 bu per acre when I planted a resistant variety on that infested land. And at $7 per bu (the price available at that time), that's $91 per acre. Besides, I spent less on weed control because of the quicker canopy with the resistant beans.

"And all I did was change my seed order!"

A dramatic example? Yes. But let's be conservative, say Heck and Greg Tylka, Iowa State University nematologist, who is doing SCN research at Heck's farm.

Let's say the loss was 7 1/2 bu per acre. And let's use $5.50 per bushel, which most any grower-marketer ought to be able to beat for his '98 crop. That's $41.25 per acre. If you raise, say, 300 acres of soybeans, that's $12,375. Over two years, that's just a tad under $25,000 - the price of a new, pretty decent pickup truck.

Heck's situation isn't all that unusual, say scientists, and there are plenty of cases that involve worse losses.

There's good news, and there's hope for soybean growers, however. Scientists like Tylka, grower associations and various industries that serve farmers have come to an overdue decision: Enough is enough! They have teamed up to form a 10-state SCN Coalition. Its challenge to soybean growers: "Take the test. Beat the pest."

Its mission: get all soybean growers to take soil samples and have them analyzed for SCN. Then, if they find they have the pests, to take the proper corrective action.

Admittedly, SCN hasn't yet infested every soybean grower's fields. But compared to even 10 years ago, if you're still free of this single-biggest, profit-stealing pest for U.S. soybean growers, it is getting much closer to nailing you.

The thing most growers don't realize - which is probably why they haven't tested for the pest - is that you can have SCN several years before they build high enough numbers to cause noticeable SCN symptoms. The real bad news is this: In most cases, plant damage and yield loss occur years before symptoms are visible.

Consider this: The first reports of SCN in the U.S. came from North Carolina in 1954 - 44 years ago. The destructive buggers now have been identified in virtually all 30 states where soybeans are grown.

For example, 82% of Illinois soybean fields are infested, 74% of Iowa fields, 71% of Missouri fields and 53% of Minnesota fields - and counting in every case.

Sadly, say SCN fighters, two-thirds of soybean growers have done nothing to beat these pests.

Here's what's scary about the nematode spread: Your fields could get infected - even if you do everything known to science to prevent and/or control cyst nematodes.

Migratory geese or ducks could stop to eat in a wet, infested field miles from your farm or even your county and then stop to feed in one of your fields and seed SCN with their muddy feet. Or nematodes can spread via seed harvested from infested fields then planted in your clean fields.

Even if farmers declare all-out war on these destructive pests, they cannot banish them completely. They can't be totally eliminated, caution scientists. But they can be managed well enough to become only small-time thieves, they assure. That's the good news.

In the articles that follow in this Special Report, you will find the details needed to hog-tie these thieves that steal significant profits from so many U.S. soybean growers.